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Nate Silver: Trump, Carson Have ‘About 5%’ Chance of Winning GOP Nomination

Fivethirtyeight.com founder Nate Silver said that GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson have a “maybe about 5%” chance of winning the nomination on Monday’s broadcast of CNN’s “AC360.”

Silver put Trump’s and Carson’s chances of winning the nomination at “maybe about 5% each, somewhere around there.” Silver explained, “there are a of couple things to think about. One is that if you look back at history, you’ve never seen candidates like Donald Trump certainly, or Ben Carson win a party nomination, and secondly, if you look at the polling a lot of times, a candidate leading the polls now, mid-September didn’t win the nomination, didn’t even come close. So, if you look four years ago, Rick Perry was in the midst of a surge right now, and eight years ago on the Democratic side, you had Howard Dean — or 12 years ago, rather, Howard Dean was surging, Hillary Clinton was still way ahead of Barack Obama in 2008. Rudy Giuliani was leading the polls in 2008. I think people — there’s so much interest in this election, in this campaign, people forget that polls five months before Iowa, historically, have told you very, very little.”

Silver stated this phenomenon was because “if you’re a primary voter, then you have a lot of shopping to do. It’s not a general election, where you have two main choices, and you’re going to decide with the party label most of the time. They’re going to kind of kick the tires on many different candidates, maybe candidates like Donald Trump, who stand out, represent something new and different, kind of a shiny object. If you have 16 things to pick from, you might pick that shiny object out of the dealer lot. It’s different when it gets down to someone’s been campaigning, they’ve knocked on your door, a lot of time, you talk with your friends and your neighbors. As much interest as there is in the campaign right now, it’s going to be probably about five times higher by the time we get to January and February, and so people are about 20% of their way to their decision-making process.”

Silver added that an establishment candidate was “probably” going to be the nominee. He continued, “I think you haven’t really had the establishment consolidate behind any one candidate, and if I were a Marco Rubio, or a Jeb Bush, or a Scott Walker, or a Chris Christie trying to play the long game, or a Kasich, certainly the fact that you have this kind of power vacuum on the GOP side, and you haven’t had people throw their support behind just one alternative makes Trump’s job a lot easier. But still, it’s the establishment’s game. You’re playing on their turf. They control all sorts of things from delegate selection process, to, remember what happened to Newt Gingrich, for example, four years ago, where he was leading in the polls and they kind of nuked him with millions of dollars of negative advertising that was coordinated against him. The biggest problem for trump is that he’s not really a Republican. Some columnist on National Review used the phrase ‘hostile takeover.’ He’s running as a Republican, and he has some positions in common with them, but a lot of things might square more with what Independent or Democratic voters think instead. And if you’re the establishment, on the Republican side, it’s a very dangerous precedent to set.”

Silver concluded by explaining Trump’s current poll numbers, stating, “the best I can figure, he’s kind of combining two different things. We saw candidates in 2011 like Herman Cain or Gingrich who have this temporary surge, you’ve also had factional candidates that were getting 20% of the vote, like a Pat Buchanan, or something like that, or Ron Paul. I think he might be both those combined, and so that’s when kind of the surge wears off. There are some people who jump on the bandwagon, and say, ‘This guy is a winner. Look at the polls. Now, he’s beating Hillary.’ When that wears off, I think it might not go to zero. He might still have 20% of the folks say, ‘You know, he’s really different than anyone else in the field, and I like that.’ Maybe I’m a Republican who doesn’t like immigration, but you know, I like my Social Security and my Medicare, and I want taxes to be higher on the rich. There are voters our there with that portfolio that will vote in the Republican primaries. But I do think somewhat, it’s a bandwagon effect.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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